…by Means of Natural Selection or the Survival of (R)Evolutionary Theories in the Face of Scientific and Ecclesiastical Objections: Being a Musical Comedy about Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Writer: John Hinton
Reviewer: Holly Spanner
Tangram Theatre Company presents The Origin of the Species… which has been hailed as an international smash hit, and it’s easy to see why! Following a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Origin of the Species… is a musical comedy written and performed by John Hinton, and was shortlisted for Best Theatre Production at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2012, with Hinton also shortlisted for Best Performer.
Written in 2008 while in the Blue Mountains of Australia – a place much loved by Darwin, the play premiered at the Southwark Playhouse later that year, and has gone on to tour the UK, Croatia, Sweden and Norway. 2015 marks the next evolutionary step of the production, with its first performance in two years.
Having put aside investigations on his Theory of Natural Selection (which began twenty years prior), a bearded Charles Darwin is continuing his comprehensive study on barnacles (which incidentally he was awarded Royal Medal for – one of the highest awards in British science). Correspondence from fellow scientist and friend Alfred Wallace detailing a theory almost identical to his own forces Darwin to revisit his life’s work, which he has kept, locked away for fear over the controversy it would cause in the largely Christian society of the day.
But like a barnacle biofouling the hull of a boat, his theory has remained below the surface, plaguing him. And so, he enters into a race to be the first to publish this radical new theory of evolution.
The show opens with Darwin (John Hinton) hunched over his microscope, quill in hand and muttering about his works as the audience are invited in to his private study. Utilising his two skills learnt at boarding school – Latin grammar and acoustic guitar, he launches in to a musical biography of Darwin’s life. A witty lyricist, Hinton delivers a first rate comedic performance and a fascinating glimpse into the life and trials of one of the most influential, and controversial figures of the 19th Century. Easy to follow for novices, he also includes the juicy science for those familiar with biodiversity nomenclature. Entertaining audience participation ensures that if you enter the auditorium with no prior knowledge as to the life cycle of a barnacle, or transmutations in the Galapagos finches – it will certainly not be the case by the end of the show.
Reminiscing on his life, from days aboard the Beagle (proudly showing the audience a miniature model of the boat), where he was told by Captain Fitzroy that his “nose displays a clear lack of energy and determination”, to marrying his cousin Emma, Hinton plays a multitude of characters with great enthusiasm, eccentricity and the odd bout of metaphorical mime thrown in for good measure.
The packed audience at the Carriageworks Theatre proves this is natural selection at its finest; The Origin of the Species…is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, genuinely engaging and accessible for primates of all ages and nose shapes.
I’m not a shy-mate,
I’m a primate,
And I’m Proud!
Reviewed on: 31st January 2015